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Christian Science Monitor: A Change Worth Watching, Or Is It?

The Christian Science Monitor announced today that it is going to shut down the paper edition in April 2009 and just publish online. With a paper that does fairly pure high quality journalism that might sound like an experiment worth watching. However,  a trip to the Monitor’s website might diminish the worth of that experiment. It is fairly static.

It reminds me of, the now almost one-year old online journalism experiment run by Joel Kramer. He believes high quality journalism is enough.  I am a high quality journalism advocate, but just putting news stories up without any interactivity, without any pizazz to pump up the best of the stories, is not going to be enough.  Also I don’t think just throwing an electronic newspaper on the online doorstop will sell.

For success mix print, video, audio, interactivity and community building. The Christian Science Monitor has a chance to build that community because it has a worthy brand and Kramer might build one too because he has connections, but just throwing that electronic newspapers on the online doorstep is not enough.

OJR has a good interview with Kramer today. All those who think hyperlocal is the Holy Grail had best read this from Kramer:

Before we started I thought we’d do everything local. My reasoning for that is that when you’re on the Web, you’re just one click away from national sites that have a lot of resources so why duplicate? But even before we started we did some focus groups with interested readers, and in those focus groups people said to us, ‘If you want a site that we’re going to identify with, as being the site for Minnesotans to come to who are serious about news, don’t make it provincial. We have broad interests.’ So even before we launched we heard quite a bit of that. So even before the launch we decided to do some national work. I can tell you after 11 months of watching what people read, we’ve learned that in fact, doing those national stories increases traffic because of the way the Web works.

We’ve had some very good, solid local stories that have gotten 5,000 readers or more. But others not so much. Our goal is to do serious, high-quality journalism for people who care about Minnesota. That’s our public purpose. But we’re dealing in a medium where you often get traffic from strange things.

3 Responses to “Christian Science Monitor: A Change Worth Watching, Or Is It?”

  1. Notes from a Teacher - The Monitor move Says:

    [...] Len Witt: Christian Science Monitor: A Change Worth Watching, Or Is It? [...]

  2. Dean Says:

    a correction: far as i know, the website is not set up yet- it’s still static more or less from day to day, but next year when they stop the daily paper, it’ll switch over to a 24/7 interactive website- check it out in april 09 before passing judgement!

  3. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hi Dean:

    I actually met John Yemma, the Monitor’s editor, at a conference last week and did a 20 plus minute video interview with him. I tried to post it, but it was too long for YouTube so I now have to find time to divide it. Actually, I agree with you, we have to wait and see and I really want it to succeed.